Oxkintok is at the extreme northwest tip of the Puuc Region. The Maya word Puuc means "hills", and this region is the only elevated part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Oxkintok was strategically located on the edge of the coastal plains at the base of the hills. This made it a transit point between the city-states of the Puuc and those of the plains. In addition, the Gulf Coast seashore is not far away, which gave the city access to marine products.
The Ah Canul Group is much too large and complex to show in one posting, so I will do it in two. The first will cover the main ceremonial structures, as well as a couple of elite palaces. In the second posting, I will focus on three plazas that are surrounded by the residential compounds of Oxkintok's governing class of nobles, priests, and military leaders.
During our visit, Carole and I spent a couple of hours inspecting and photographing all four groups of structures. Only later, after I found the map above, did I realize that Oxkintok's size and complexity was much greater than what we saw. A return visit may well be in order. Maps of Maya ruins are often unavailable at the sites themselves. Even when they are, the maps are sometimes incomplete. In advance of any visit to Maya ruins, consider scouring the internet for the most complete site maps you can find. This may keep you from missing important parts of a ruin that you have traveled far to see.
Cathartes aura. Its range is from southern Canada to the southern tip of South America. The turkey vulture likes open and semi-open areas where it can easily spot carrion. This makes the northern plains of Yucatan a particularly good hunting ground. The bird locates the carrion with the help of its excellent senses of sight and smell. The ancient Maya were very much in tune with their natural environment. Throughout their culture, you can find the animals of their world represented in their art, religion, and architecture, as well as their clothing and personal ornaments. Archeologists call this zoomorphism.
During our visit, I noticed that some of the most prominent monuments and structures had no identifying signs, while several of the smaller structures were well marked. As I prepared for this posting, I researched every archeological description and site map that I could find. All of my sources identified some structures in common. However, each source also identified structures that the others didn't. Further, all of them left some obviously important pyramids, palaces, temples, and plazas completely unidentified. This puzzled me greatly.
In order to help you orient yourself within the ruins, I combined all the identified structures into three maps, one for each group. I then created my own labels for structures I had photographed which were unnamed. I invite corrections. In the meantime, we'll just go with my labels.
The West Pyramid
Potsherd analysis shows that human occupation at Oxkintok lasted from approximately 600 BC to 1500 AD, a whopping 2,100 years! However, Oxkintok's period of greatest activity lasted about 750 years, beginning in the Early Classic Era (300 AD) and ending in the Terminal Classic (1050 AD). While this timespan is shorter, it still exceeds the total period of occupation of many other pre-hispanic cities.
However, you can visualize a direct line from the cylinder to the center of the pyramid's top. This suggests that the cylinder might be a marker point for astronomical observations. The West Pyramid faces east and the rays of the rising sun would first touch its top level and then work down until they came to the disk. One of the most important Maya gods was K'inich Ahau, the sun god, and the pyramid may have been devoted to him.
The West Temple
The North Structure